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Buck Gooter - "100 Bells" | Album Review

by Stephen Veith (@quakeroats91)

The first song begins, a guitar tone warbles for a moment, then the drums, closer to bomb shells, begin their assault on the listener. A scrappy, metallic guitar joins the chaos with a chugging garage rock riff, Terry Turtle begins to tame the tornado of sound with his coarse and seasoned voice. 

I’m immediately mesmerized. When I saw the opportunity to write this review I thought about how I had not written about a band that I was really, truly, unfamiliar with in a long time. Its easy to write about what you like, what you know, what you can discuss with other listeners. Then there is Buck Gooter. So little exists about this band and their beginnings that most of my research was conducted through youtube videos put together by loyal fans and word of mouth. I jumped at the chance to be surprised and to really put myself to the challenge of breaking down and understanding something as seemingly mysterious as Buck Gooter. 

Based out of Harrisonburg, VA the duo of Billy Brett and Terry Turtle met at The Little Grill Collective, a co-op cafe. When trying to find out more about the band I realized that they have no wikipedia entry, not that they need one, but the only page where the band is mentioned is on that of the collective. This quite quickly, grew my interest significantly. The duo have been releasing music since 2005. Since then, the band has had 24 releases. This daunting overhanging discography began to dampen my hopes of digesting the band fully, but their new release 100 Bells has left my appetite more than satisfied.  

On previous records, the lack of caution and unabashedly raw industrial feelings of the songs could be lost in their tendency to sprawl and swirl the melodies and sounds out, such as on “I've Got Damn Age,” a 2006 Buck Gooter track. Where those tracks where the tornado spewing anything it picked up in its path, 100 Bells is the very bottom of the vortex, spinning just as fast and out of control with the same destructive power,  focused into shorter songs, and a tighter ball of energy with bombastic release.  

The bombast of the drumming is the great constant through this new release as Turtle and Brett growls on a topics ranging from struggles of faith, to war and politics, to nearly outsider rock novelty with the ode to the hooved in “Goats are Cool”.  

“I don’t talk to the dead” sounds like an early Clash demo that never got the attention or other verses it needed to make the cut of London Calling. In its simplicity and its repetitiveness lie a key skill of Buck Gooter which relates back to this tornado thesis I have constructed right now. The oscillating nature of the repeating aggressive vocals, drums, guitar gives all of this seemingly directionless record an ultimately hypnotizing tendency. You’ll find yourself whispering “I don't talk, to the dead” at your day job and then you’ve realized it, you’ve become indoctrinated.  

At the halfway point of the record, “Dissolved Song” introduces a blinking synth pattern with scattered electrical dissonance, the first song where the constant banging of the drumming is replaced with this more electronic and flanging base. The song is spoken word cried through Billy Brett's unforgiving rasp, partly about a dissolving body, “flailing fingertips filled with sediment and brine,” and partly an indistinguishable collage of horror imagery about what appears to be the world's end. The song ends in unison as Billy and Turtle shout together, “shut the light, shut the light, shut the light, shut your mind, yeaaahhh” as if coaxing the listener to just give up at this point, they’re in control.  

The political presence of the record is on full display in “One War” with the mantra “There's only ever been one war / war on the poor” repeated as the river of bass drum is re-entered into the record. The chiming of bells and pipes dance along with a slowly turning distorted guitar, staying in the shadows before taking lead with an overdriven solo that makes this track sound more like a song for marching into battle than one for peace, but in today's world, maybe a little extremism is necessary for change. That's another thing I love about this record, the “little extremism” of Buck Gooter's sound is just enough to make you feel uncomfortable initially but as you get accustomed to it, you see the wealth of its functionality.  

My favorite track on the record, “Hey Lou,” is a tribute to the late Lou Reed, with hollow drums that combine with a phased out guitar to create a pagan feeling as if Terry Turtle was attempting to resurrect Lou Reed from the dead just to ask him why he had to died.  

The record closes with “Fracking up the Planet,” a stomping distorted blues with a growling guitar and Terry Turtle crooning about EPA regulations and the future of our country's environmental well being. “Now you’re gonna frack all up, garbage in the water, pollution everywhere, now you’re gonna frack it all up”. Terry recalls a cleaner time, and how the ocean was once clean, now the sight of it makes him stir.  

I appreciate how the record ends on a note of very tangible and real apocalypse, but begins with Terry and Billy almost beckoning the end of times, challenging them to come forward, and that they should be the band to score our world's final scenes. 100 Bells is a record you should listen to not just because people tell you to, but because you genuinely want to experience something, or some feeling that you haven't felt before or in a long time - discovery.